De Vries chases down elusive gold medal

Dutch rider Tim de Vries claimed his first career UCI World Championships gold medal during the 10-lap encounter in the H5 handcycling race in the afternoon session of day three at the 2017 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships, held at Alexandra Park Pietermaritzburg on Saturday 2 September.

In an enthralling encounter that took almost two hours to complete along the 60.7-kilometre route, De Vries outsprinted arch-rival Alessandro Zanardi (ITA) to claim the gold. His compatriot, Johan Reekers, finished third to round out the podium for The Netherlands.

De Vries noticed that on the last climb, the riders began to push hard. “Zanardi was taking over and he went a little bit harder. I was on his wheel and thought, this is it, I’m not going to leave you. I tried to stay cool and recover from the climb and I did that halfway down the hill and then I thought, I’m gonna get ya! I’m not going to give you anything. At 200 metres, I’m going to go and I’m going to go hard,” he said.

An ecstatic de Vries said: “It feels incredible, amazing and unbelievable all in one. It feels like finally this is the prize that you get after such hard work and dedication. The support from my family, the support from my sponsors – there are a lot of people involved in my training and in my races – has been overwhelming. I’m really happy that I could make them happy with this jersey.”

Zanardi said: “I always hear how exciting the racing is but quite frankly, when you’re involved in the actual race you aren’t aware of the spectacular aspect of it. You use every ounce of energy you have to try and get an advantage over your opponent. There were some interesting moments where I thought I had an opportunity to break away but it didn’t happen. Then I thought that I had a great chance at the sprint. But I don’t regret anything I did.”

The H3 road race could’ve been anyone’s for victory as three handcyclists remained up front and jostled for positions to be in the best possible place for the finish line sprint. David Franek (FRA), Paolo Cecchetto (ITA) and Heinz Frei of Switzerland raced for the line with the former taking the victory in a time of 1:42:19.

Earlier in the afternoon, 59-year-old Hans-Peter Durst celebrated yet another gold medal for Germany when he claimed his second UCI World Championships title in the competition the Men’s T2 tricycle race in what he says was the most bizarre set of circumstances. The three-time UCI World Champion in the T2 Road Race was embroiled in an early crash, with the race starting afresh from there. Durst had a tactical plan to attack on the first hill of the five-lap 30.4-kilometre race.

He then suffered hayfever from a pollen allergy, where his chest started to close, making it difficult to breathe normally. He fell back to sixth place. “I tried to follow the riders but it wasn't good,” he said of his race. “Then the race unfolded in the strangest manner. The young guys in the front, they just didn't seem to work. I came along with my small gears and started catching up to them. Then there was another crash from Ryan Boyle (USA), then another crash from Giorgio Farroni (ITA), and then on the downhill I found myself in fourth place. I don’t know what happened to the Spaniard Joan Figuerola, but I just passed him. Then Stephen Hills (NZL), who is a really strong rider, was left in front and I saw my team standing on the side of the road about 300 metres from the finish line. They encouraged me and I did what I had to do, and I really pushed to take the win.”

Hills finished in second place only two seconds behind Durst’s winning time of 0:56:51, and Figuerola rounded out the podium, 11 seconds off the pace.

Australian Carol Cooke made it a double as well when she blitzed the Women’s T2 road race over 24.3km in a time of 0:51:07. Cooke beat her rivals Jana Majunke from Germany and American Jill Walsh in second and third places respectively. Cooke said that she was determined to regain the UCI World Championships title this year after losing it in 2015. “The women have gotten a lot stronger in the past two years, and today’s racing was really hard. But I really wanted to wear the rainbow jersey again and I am very happy with my win today!”

The Men’s T1 race saw Russian rider Sergei Semochkin claim victory in a time of 1:10:43 along the 30.4km route. He was followed by Italian Leonardo Melle, with Rickard Nilsson of Sweden finishing in third place.

In the Women’s T1 race, Canadian Shelley Gautier added another gold medal to the Canadian team’s tally, winning the 24.3km race in a time of 1:01:41. Team South Africa scooped another medal when Toni Mould finished second in the race. It is South Africa’s second silver medal and third medal in total.

An ecstatic Mould said, “It was a tough race and I was given the option to stop. But I know the rules – don’t stop until they pull you off. When I saw the Russian Yulia (Sibagatova) was off the bike and out of the race I knew that if she was off I had the chance for second. But my achievement was to race to finish. I am so happy with the silver medal. I don’t think it’s sunk in – maybe it will tonight.”

Summary of Results – 2017 UCI Para-cycling Road World Championships Pietermaritzburg

Saturday 2 September [Afternoon Session]

Men T1 Road Race 30.4km

  1. Sergei SEMOCHKIN (RUS) 1:10:43
  2. Leonardo MELLE (ITA) -1 LAP
  3. Rickard NILSSON (SWE) -1 LAP

Men T2 Road Race 30.4km

  1. Hans-Peter DURST (GER) 0:56:51
  2. Stephen HILLS (NZL) 0:56:53 +00:02
  3. Joan FIGUEROLA REINOSO (ESP) 0:57:02 +00:11

Women T1 Road Race 24.3km

  1. Shelley GAUTIER (CAN) 1:01:41
  2. Toni MOULD (RSA) -1 LAP

Women T2 Road Race 24.3km

  1. Carol COOKE (AUS) 0:51:07
  2. Jana MAJUNKE (GER) 0:51:39 +00:32
  3. Jill WALSH (USA) 0:52:10 +01:03

Men H5 Road Race 60.7km

  1. Tim DE VRIES (NED) 1:50:11
  2. Alessandro ZANARDI (ITA) 1:50:11 +00:00
  3. Johan REEKERS (NED) 1:50:11 +00:00

Men H3 Road Race 60.7km

  1. David FRANEK (FRA) 1:42:19
  2. Paolo CECCHETTO (ITA) 1:42:19 +00:00
  3. Heinz FREI (SUI) 1:42:22 +00:03

ENDS